Women in the power sector are few and far between, so in honour of International Women's Day, we sat down with Lisa Wilshaw, our Operations Manager to discuss her experiences in the industry and how we can make it more accessible for other women.
How did you start your career in energy?
Accidentally! I always wanted to be an Air Stewardess, but when I tried at 17 they told me I had to be 21 to apply.
So I applied to Dorman Diesels for an admin role to pass the time. The Training Officer there talked me into a Technician Apprenticeship. I thought 'Perfect, four years of this then I'll go and travel around the world.'
But that didn’t quite work out as planned. I started at Broadcrown Generators in 1992 and stayed there for over 25 years.
What was it like to be a woman in STEM at that time?
Very Difficult. My first years off the job training were at the GEC training school. Of the 72 students who trained there, there were only three females. My peers were great and I had a fantastic year, the difficulties came when I was back in the factory. Some of the ‘older generation' had a perception that engineering was a 'man's job' and women should be at home looking after children.
A vivid memory of mine is standing outside the men's toilet at the end of every day with a plastic pot asking the men to go in and get me some Swarfega to clean my hands as it wasn’t available in the ladies' toilets.
How has it changed since then?
Stereotypes are still there though I think these are starting to be broken down.
The more women that enter STEM professions will help to improve both gender equality and gender pay disparities that still exist in some cases.
Do you still come across sexism at work in 2021?
Occasionally, though I think times are very different to how they used to be. Sometimes when I answer the phone, people will ask 'Can I speak to someone technical?' I guess they think I just answer the phones, they don't realize, I am fully trained and qualified. But this happens much less frequently nowadays.
Why do you think there are so few women in energy compared with other STEM fields?
I honestly don’t know. It is a very demanding industry, but no more demanding than other careers that are predominantly female orientated.
The critical nature of the industry does mean it is 24/7 and it becomes very difficult to switch off.
What are some of the ways women can excel in energy, perhaps compared to men?
I really don’t think a comparison should be made between genders. I have always believed if you put your mind to it and work hard you can achieve anything.
What should the energy industry be doing to make energy more accessible to women?
The industry is accessible to everyone. I think more needs to be done in the schools. Girls need to know more about opportunities that are out there within STEM fields.
I'm sure things are better nowadays than when I was at school. I know there are STEM mentoring programmes however due to the day-to-day pressures of work, businesses need to allow employees time away from work to facilitate this which is not always practical.
How has it been working at Genovate as a female manager?
I have only been at Genovate for 8 months, but have loved the new challenge.
I have not had to think about the fact I am a ‘female’ manager, just an Operations Manager working within a great team.
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Women in the power sector are few and far between, so in honour of International Women's Day, we sat down with Lisa Wilshaw, our Operations Manager to discuss her experiences in the industry and how we can make it more accessible for other women.[More]
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